Work, poverty and welfare reform : welfare-to-work programmes for lone parents in depressed local labour markets
This dissertation examines the impact of welfare reform on the work and poverty of lone parents living on welfare in depressed local labour markets. It uses a comparative approach to compare supply-side welfare-to-work programmes in Sheffield, UK and Buffalo, USA, and draws on current debates in geography, the social sciences and feminist scholarship to examine the connections between work, poveliy and welfare. It is based on a detailed evaluation of the circumstances of sixty lone parents in Buffalo and Sheffield and the programmes in which they participated. I begin by critically assessing the literatures which examine the restructuring of work, poverty and welfare states in the post-Fordist period and discussing the importance of qualitative methods in researching welfare reform. The first of four empirical chapters examines how lone parents on welfare in depressed local labour markets live in poverty, carry out a great deal of unpaid work, and face multiple barriers to moving into employment. I then examine the different approaches to employing lone parents in Buffalo and Sheffield, and assess whether the programmes move lone parents off benefit and into employment, and whether they subsequently return to welfare. The last of these four chapters shows that lone parents are moving into are poorly paid, insecure and precarious employment, often leaving them in poveliy and struggling to balance their paid and unpaid work. The dissertation concludes by suggesting that an alternative approach to welfare reform is needed that addresses the demand-side of the labour market, invests in education and training, and tackles the multiple barriers to employment faced by lone parents. I argue that whilst welfare reform ignores the geography of employment, the growth of the working poor, and the value of unpaid work, it will not be effective in ending the economic and social exclusion of lone parents.